Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chapter 7: Anniversary, the Library, and Interview Preparation

Yesterday was my two year anniversary with Aaron and we had a really good time together. We had breakfast in bed, walked through the market, visited a bookstore, bought some deliciousness at the bakery and went out to dinner at Sabrina's. Overall- a delicious anniversary. And I got some really cute and comfy slippers (very important because you have to walk outside on the porch to get to and from our room) and an awesome huge sauce pot to replace the one that was caught in the middle of a plastic water bottle melting fiasco (no one borrows my cooking stuff anymore).

Today, I decided to take some time for myself and do something I've wanted to do since I got here- visit the HUGE Philadelphia Free Library. I figured it was an awesome excuse to catch up on some homework, too. So I went on an adventure.

Now, you must realize that every time I have ventured out I either knew where I was going or had other people with me. Today, I only had a vague idea of where I was going and an even vaguer idea of how to get there. But, I was determined. I decided to take the subway for part of the way- I knew I needed to at least go a few blocks north of City Hall, and I didn't want to walk all of that.

But, I had no idea which stop to get off at.
And I didn't have a map.
And my phone was dead.

So, I asked a really nice subway worker (the first one I've met that wasn't a complete jerk) and he told me the stop that would be best. So, I hop on the subway (which I love, by the way) and get off at the Race-Vine stop.

So. Now, I'm at Race and Vine. what?

I started walking in the direction I believed I should be going. Rule #1 of navigating Philly: always pretend to know where you are going. Well, I didn't have to pretend for long, because I only needed to walk about 4 or 5 blocks and there was the library!

You can't miss it. It's one of the most lovely things I've ever seen. This building is the definition of "grand". It has huge arched windows, rows of giant columns, and takes up an entire block. Walking in, there is just this huge, open area with shoot-off corridors to different sections. They have rows and rows and shelves and shelves of anything you would ever want to read.

And the second floor is even better. Everything is interconnected and it's like a little maze of books.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

On the way back, I stopped and got another button down shirt. I have an interview tomorrow, which I am really excited about. Tonight I have to do more research and reading up on the organization and think about some good answers to interview questions. I'm pretty excited. The more I think about it, the more I think that this place would be a good fit for me.

I hope I have some good experiences this semester. I also hope some new doors open up. Like education careers and opportunities outside of a school. I never really thought of it before, but working full time for a non-profit or (think of it) even starting my own organization. This might be a life changing internship.

Well, wish me luck. Psh, like I need it! :P

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chapter 6: Slush and Homesickness

Today was a pretty low key day. Since it snowed so much last night, the gang and I got to skip going to the Philadelphia Center at 9:30 a.m. and got to put it off until 2:30 p.m. That was pretty great, because I got to do some reading and some napping.

After we went to the Center at 2:30, we walked around the city (you'd think we would have covered all that ground by now, but we've barely made a dent) and bought some interview clothes for Aaron- who has his first interview tomorrow. It was fun- except the city is in disarray because of all the snow. The streets and sidewalks were about 100% slush. My boots are not waterproof and by the end of the walk my socks were soaked through. Not fun.

But we got home and made dinner together: a yummy stir fry! It was good and it's always fun eating together and then doing something silly like looking at failblog all together.

I have to admit, though I truly am loving Philadelphia- I'm getting a tad bit homesick. I miss my nieces and nephews and siblings and parents and friends I haven't seen in awhile. I'm not overly distraught about it or anything, but I miss 'em. Oh well, that's what home is for. It's always there when you need it (though every time I go back I think dear god-when can I leave again? hahaha).

I signed up for a netflix account, which is pretty rad. Now we can watch movies movies movies without the hassle of finding a place to rent them from. I'm excited- cause it's cheap and I love movies :)

Well, up early tomorrow. Going to the Center, maybe the Market too. And I can't forget about all the homework!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chapter 5: Settling in, Parking and the Market

It's been awhile since I last posted, mostly because we didn't have reliable internet, but also because things have been so crazy that I have been too tired at night to update. But things have finally settled down around here (well, a little bit) and we just got wireless internet today, so it's about time for a new post!

Moving in was crazy. We hauled a lot of furniture and boxes up a lot of stairs. Anyone remember that scene from Friends where Ross tries to move that sofa up the stairs? Yeah, we didn't get anything stuck, but the hassle of going up and down, up and down with chairs, tables, mattresses, and boxes and boxes and boxes was intense. Let's just say I wasn't at my most graceful moment as I threatened to throw up on the furniture.

Speaking of furniture- we have very little. We were planning on getting a sofa or love seat or at least some beanbags, but nothing has panned out yet. So we have been hanging around on pillows and blankets and dining room chairs in the living room. And we don't have TV, so we have spent a lot of free time watching shows online or Aaron's Friends (hence the earlier reference) discs or youtube.

We are all getting along as roomies, and I'm really glad I'm living with these kooky people. I have my close old friends, as well as new friends, to share all these great things with.

So, we are basically, mostly, kinda settled in at the moment. I'm unpacked and have made my little niche in the apartment.

I'm loving Philly- except for a few things. I'm getting used to the walking everywhere, so that's not terrible. But the main thing is driving/parking. Who taught these people how to drive?! Who taught them how to-not double- but TRIPLE park?! How to park in the LEFT TURN LANE!? How to cut everyone off and honk...well, all the time?!! I swear, driving these streets left me swearing, honking and flipping people off. Not my best moment, but hey, at least I'M not the one who triple parked.

Now, one of the best parts of Philly: the Italian Market, which we are right in the middle of. When you walk out of our apartment, you can smell the cheesesteak and pizza being made at Lorenzo's next door. If you cross the street and go down the block, you can meet a little old Italian lady who will pipe a fresh, delicious cannoli right in front of you in a great little bakery. If you turn the corner onto 9th, you'll see the market laid out in front of you- with the spice shop, the cheese stores, the butchers, and all the fruit and vegetable stands. The beauty and deliciousness is indescribable. I felt beyond words when I enter the bustling crowd to buy my onions and homemade breadcrumbs to make my Dad's meatballs (which were the first dish made in our new apartment, appropriately enough). The Market is wonderful.

I have my first internship interview set up for Monday, at an organization that specializes in giving kids a place and support to do creative writing. I hope it goes well; it sounds great! I have two more interviews that are waiting to be set up-both at charter schools, so we'll see.

As for tonight, there is a huge blizzard- with lightning and all (I can almost here Karen Minasi telling me to quick unplug my computer)...the snowfall is crazy...our porch is covered in about a foot! And from a Michigander's P.O.V. this isn't the end of the world- but for Philly it's a cause to go into pandemonium. Before it even started snowing today (just a little hail) schools got out early and businesses shut down. Sheesh. Wish GRPS did that! :)

Oh- Aaron cut off his lion he has a grown up haircut. I barely recognize him!

More tomorrow!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chapter 4: Furniture Shopping, Lease Signing, and Philly Cheesesteak

The past few days have been both really busy, but also really boring. We have been walking around all day nonstop, shopping for furniture. While we were recommended by The Philadelphia Center to rent furniture...we decided to go thrifting. So we have traveled far and wide to find the best deals and (which is a process all by itself).

But, as it turns out, finding and buying the furniture was only the first part of the battle. Moving it is going to be a whole different battle in and of itself. I remember my dad saying something about always having friends with pick up trucks, so you can always make them help you move.

Unfortunately, those friends are not in Philly.

So, after much discussion (in which Aaron argued for carrying all the furniture to the apartment...including the mattresses, which would be almost a half an hour walk and at least 2 trips. Yeah. Right.) we decided to rent a pick up from Uhaul for 20 bucks for four hours. The boys will be picking it up and dealing with the furniture, while us girls will be making trips to and from the apartment to bring our luggage and such.

So, moving in tomorrow. Not excited. I hate moving. I'm really excited to be all settled into the apartment...but I don't want all the hassle of hauling all the furniture up the narrow staircase. And unpacking.


On a bright side- there is a place here in Philly called Sweet Ending. It is a frozen yogurt shop where they charge by the weight and you can pick from a variety of flavors and toppings. It is delicious. I've been twice.

I can't wait to go grocery shopping. I can't wait to cook and not eat out. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed. I can't wait, I can't wait.

I also can't wait for my internship to start. Well, I can't wait to know what it is going to be. I talked to my advisor today, and she suggested a high school that is actually just a few blocks away from my apartment that would have some great opportunities for me. We shall see.

We won't have internet in our apartment until Wednesday morning...but hopefully I will be going to coffee shops and the library in the next few days. So possibly updates? If not, I'm not dead, I just have no internet to siphon.

Also, on top of everything, I can't forget about the schoolwork! Sigh...C'est la vie. :)

OH! I almost forgot! We had our first official Philly Cheese steaks at a place on the corner of our street today while we were visiting the apartment. It was delicious! I believe the term "scarfed it down" was invented precisely for your first Philly Cheese steak. I anticipate gaining 20 pounds from eating them and walking that off in the half hour walk to and from class.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chapter 3: Apartment Shopping in the Freezing Rain and Finding a Piece of Sunshine

Even though when we went to sleep last night it was snowing, we woke up this morning to freezing rain. Which would be fine, except we are in a city where you walk everywhere- and today we had to find an apartment. Well, I guess technically we didn’t have to find it today.

But let’s be honest. I’m nothing if I’m not impatient and impulsive.

So for me- it had to be TODAY. J

So, our umbrella-less trio went out and went to our first showing- a mansion. The house was gorgeous on the inside. The bedrooms were surreal- like something you would expect a Duchess to sleep in. It had four bedrooms- but each one could easily fit three people in it. The neighborhood didn’t impress us, but it had parking, so that was a plus.

We went to the next showing- 3 apartments right in the middle of the Italian Market district. We fell in love with the first one. It had a good living area, washer and drier, really spacious bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms. Also- the Italian Market neighborhood is just phenomenal. I fit right in! We saw 4 more apartments after this one- but the first one was perfect for us, hands down. One of the best parts? $300 a month per person- plus utilities (which will also be split 5 ways). Heck. Yes.

We found two other people, so we had a total of five, that agreed to get it with us. Then there was a frenzied rush to get to the realtor’s office to drop off the deposit. We did it, though and secured the apartment! We sign the lease on Friday and move in on Saturday. Before that though, we have to call to set up electric and gas. We also decided on getting internet, but no cable…because we are all in the poor house J

I’m unbelievably excited about the apartment and about my new housemates. I can’t wait for Saturday!!

In other news my legs are hollering at me because they aren’t this used to walking for around six or seven hours at a time…oh well. No huge walking trips tomorrow though- registering for classes, getting an advisor and starting to think about internships!

Also, we went to the Comcast Center (which HAS to be the biggest skyscraper here. We couldn’t even see the top because there were clouds in the way! Well…low clouds…or high fog…but it’s massive!) and ate at the food court. I had a delicious corned beef and pastrami sandwich. Is it just me, or does everything just taste better here??

I think so.

Reading and sleeping tonight!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chapter 2: The Old and the New

Today was a day all about Old things and New things- in particular how they can work together to create an exciting atmosphere.

We broke off into groups today and walked around the city. Not just a leisurely stroll for an hour or so- a 5 hour mission to cover as much ground as possible. The weather was chilly- but not terrible (I made sure to bundle up extra).

The first thing I noticed about Philadelphia is how the Old and New work so easily together. When good ol' William Penn first designed the city, he laid it out on a grid that has four main squares and everything situated around/inside them. This grid from the centuries ago is still being followed- with a few new variational diagonal streets. Everything flows into everything else.

There are massive New skyscrapers and the Old houses and wooden streets from our fore-father's time right next to each other. I know a lot of people who would scoff at this and think Why would they ruin it with ugly skyscrapers? But, it's not ruined at all. The buildings flow seamlessly and the skyscrapers don't look out of place. Philadelphia- the "Birthplace of the Nation" as it is sometimes called- has always been such an important part of our country. The skyscrapers- with their rows of windows and many fountains and statues- do add some beauty to downtown and also remind us that Philadelphia is still an important piece of the puzzle.

My favorite part of the walk was when we would turn a corner off of a rather bustling street, and all the sudden we were on a quiet, tiny road, barely wide enough for the smallest of cars. The houses were all pushed right up against each other- but they were all so different; different heights, widths, colors. It was beautiful and so peaceful- but still exciting because you could hear, almost as an after thought, things going on a block down. The houses looked so cozy- like if they were people they would be old friends who loved each other and wanted to hug and cuddle since the country was founded.

But enough about architecture.

It seems like Philly is alive everywhere you look. There are the most beautiful murals, mosaics, fountains and statues just bursting from every corner. The smells from Chinatown and restaurants on South Street are mouthwatering. The indoor market is huge and has everything anyone could ever want. With so many new things, I don't want to sleep- I just want to walk around and see everything in.

On the other hand- I'm exhausted.

I think the best example of Old and New today was also the most fun part of the walk. A friend from Earlham, Collin, convinced two girls, who were originally from China, to teach him some Chinese. It was- if anyone knows Collin, they will not be surprised- ridiculous and hilarious. He would string some sounds together that he thought sounded Chinese and try to, as he put it, "stumble into a word to look smart". All in all- Collin learned how to say "Ni-hao" and everyone involved got a kick out of that ridiculousness. But what I thought was great was how in the midst of "Old City" New friendships were being made while some were...struggling...with a New language. :)

Afterward, we all stuffed ourselves full from a plethora of different ethnic food options; Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Italian- just to name a few.

I got to know more people today, and have already fostered some friendships. I'm really excited for the housing search to begin tomorrow...we have three showings set up. Wish us luck!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chapter 1: Leaving Late, Smelling New Jersey, and Walking

To no one's surprise, we did not leave from Keesville, NY for Philadelphia, PA on time this morning. A variety of factors (including sleeping in because Aaron's dog Joe kept me up because he was chasing mice or flies or ghosts all last night) kept us behind schedule. The drive was long, but good. We laughed a lot and listened to the same songs over and over (Aaron's favorites being Michael Buble's "Everything" and "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas).

Driving through New Jersey was the worst. We thought we were lost (we weren't). Also, you know how everyone says that Jersey has a "smell"? Yeah. They weren't lying.

But, driving up to it, there is no missing Philadelphia. It is big in every way. Tall buildings. Big rivers. Long bridges. Getting off the highway and driving smack dab in downtown was like a deleted scene from a Hitchcock movie. A lot of streets are no bigger than alleys...with barely any lane markings- or none at all. Sometimes I thought it was a three lane street. Sometimes one lane. And once I was convinced we were not on the street at all, but on the trolley tracks -and therefore were going to die. Aaron, as always, convinced me otherwise.

We got here late. I hate being late. But we still caught all the important parts of the orientation...with Andrea filling us in with what we missed. I started meeting new people...which is always pretty rad. I can see some fun times ahead with some of these lovely people.

Now, the worst part of the day: the optional walk to South street. A walk? Yay! Let's get acquainted with this wonderful city we will be living and working in until May. Sounded like a good idea at the time.

Yeah. It wasn't.

It was right around 20 degrees. I was wearing a thin trench coat (I know, a Michigander should know better). The walk there and back took two hours. We walked at a pace that paralleled how most Olympians swim laps. And, so of course, to my complete embarrassment and utter frustration, I had an asthma attack. It all got taken care of when we got back to the hotel, of course. But, owe it to me to create a medical drama on the first day.

Let me know when I can get a commercial lung transplant.

But, overall, a good day. This life in a new city is nerve-wracking and tiring. But, by the end of the week, I will have an apartment!

Tomorrow's agenda: More walking. More walking. Ethnic food eating.